Saturday, July 19, 2008

A Conservative Viewpoint
- N. C. Ship Of State Leaking

Article by Bob Steinburg
- Edenton, North Carolina: Cradle of the Colony

The North Carolina ship of state is comprised of the 120 elected representatives who serve in the State House, 50 senators who serve in the State Senate, a Governor and nine elected members to the Council of State. The legislature writes the budget. They are elected to represent us by balancing our individual local interests with the needs of the entire state. If the proposed state budget for fiscal 2008-09 is any indication of how seriously they’re taking this responsibility, it appears they’re significantly underachieving, causing our ship of state to spring a leak.

Our individual elected representatives have little voice in the outcome of the final budget. Only two men – Senator Marc Basnight, President Pro Tem of the Senate, and Rep. Joe Hackney, Speaker of the House- control the agenda and the votes on all legislative matters. They are both Democrats.

The 13 appropriation committee chairs are also occupied by Democrats. While these legislators do have some input into the budget process, they too will ultimately succumb to the will of Messrs. Basnight and Hackney

Mr.Hackney and Mr. Basnight also control debate. They can choose to ignore a legislator who stands in opposition, or to offer an alternative amendment. They simply rule them out of order. And when these two gentlemen decide they want a Bill to die they send it off to committee, which is the equivalent of Russia sending a political prisoner off to Siberia - never to be heard from again. With the Democrats controlling both chambers of state government these two political Titans will have the final word on how our hard-earned tax dollars are spent.

The new $21.3 billion budget recently passed both the House and Senate with Democrats voting unanimously yes and most Republicans voting no. Democratic Gov. Mike Easley is expected to sign it.

Do we have a balanced budget? Yes. Are our tax dollars being spent wisely? That depends on how you feel about a number of things including our state incurring an additional $857 million in debt. This is more than previous proposals and was included in the budget without even considering voter input or approval. Questions remain how we’re even going to fund the debt service.

Committing North Carolina to additional financial encumbrances in this precarious economic environment is fiscally irresponsible. While most of the folks are tightening their belts at home to try and deal with the consequences of a faltering economy, Raleigh continues to spend and accumulate additional debt as if we were living in the best of times. An example is the adding of 400 new full-time state jobs that include five-star benefit packages paid for by you know who.

Another fiscally disturbing element of this budget is that it includes the re-authorization of “retired” debt of $107 million. Get your checkbooks out. We’ll be paying for that, too.

North Carolina will spend $15 million this year for drop-out prevention grants. This is $8 million dollars more than last year. Wouldn’t it have made sense to evaluate the program first to see if it’s even working before committing more funds to it? Raleigh apparently didn’t think so.

We’ve all been taught to put a little money away for a rainy day. The state has a “Rainy Day Fund” too, but this year they won’t be contributing. Why? We currently have a total of just under $800 million in this fund, which is less than five percent of this year’s budget and the statutory cap. Enough for a few rainy days perhaps but heaven help us if North Carolina experiences a financial monsoon.

The people of this state continue to be deeply concerned about our pressing infrastructure needs and yet there is little in this budget to address it. Oh there is money set aside for patching a few pot-holes here and there but that’s about it. Is it going to take a senseless human disaster to finally awaken Raleigh to this impending crisis?

“How can they do this,” you ask? Because we let them. By re-electing the same fiscally irresponsible folk’s year after we’re basically telling them we don’t give a damn how you spend our money.

Mr. Basnight and Mr. Hackney, along with their Democratic minions, will soon return from Raleigh singing praises of their many accomplishments in this legislative session. One song you won’t be hearing is the one about how they’ve increased our fees by $100 million along with transferring money from trust, scholarship and lottery proceeds to help underwrite hundreds of government projects.

I doubt they’ll be singing either about their including $42 million in the budget for more corporate welfare in the form of various tax breaks as enticements for companies to either come here or stay here.

Our state government continues to grow and with it so too does our debt. The term fiscal responsibility has meant little to the majority party running the show in Raleigh. In fact those words are an oxymoron.

The North Carolina Democratic Party remains out of touch with its citizens. Representative government in the General Assembly is sadly, laughable. When one party holds the reins of power as long as these folks have, you end up with a government that looks out for themselves first and those they purport to represent last.

When you have an irresponsibly arrogant state government unchallenged by a significantly apathetic uninformed statewide electorate you’re in unchartered waters. Before sailing further we best bring this leaky ship of state into dry dock for a complete overhaul. We then need to replace her Captain, First Mate and much of her crew. Only then will she be capable of withstanding the perils of the approaching economic “perfect storm.”

One Party Rule. A recent poll by Civitas had an assessment by NC people that our problems are caused by Republicans, who have not had any power or say in creating the problems. The poll says these same people believe the problems are best solved by Democrats, who have been in power for most of the last hundred years and who created the problems peopole are complaining about.

Is this poll corect? Are you one of the majority of NC citizens who blame the party with no power and plan to vote for the same people who created the problems? The poll indicated that the more unhappy people are with the future of NC, the more they plan to vote for the party that is in currently in power.

That has got to be one definition of insanity.


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